Here’s an interesting video on how to train future pastors and leaders. Bryan Chapell, Mike Bulmore, and David Helm all share their thoughts on how to train future pastors in the church. It doesn’t sound like any of them reject the idea that schools/seminaries have a role to play as well, but there focus is on what this looks like in the context of the local congregation. They end up getting into an interesting discussion of modeling vs. instructing in the training process.
One thing I found interesting was that although they mentioned the importance of experience/practice in the training process, they didn’t discuss how difficult it can be for beginning preachers to find preaching opportunities. With the demise of Sunday evening services and mid-week services at most churches, seminary students often find it very difficult to get real preaching practice – especially since many churches don’t want to hand the pulpit to beginning preachers on Sunday morning (or whenever the main service is). So, they either need to preach in a classroom, which is a really artificial environment in which to learn how to preach, or they have to manufacture a preaching outlet: : small groups, friends, family, whatever. This just isn’t a great way to train future preachers.
I’d love to see more churches developing a training mentality for future preachers. Seminaries can help students develop some of the skills necessary for good preaching, but they can’t complete the process. Some things you just can’t learn in the classroom.
Though most churches have a website, there is a divide between congregations that use their sites only for one-way communication and those that maximize their online presence with interactive technology.
- Al Mohler discusses Joel Osteen’s recent comments about homosexuality.
Joel Osteen found himself forced to answer a question that every Christian — and certainly every Christian leader — will be forced to answer. When that moment comes, and come it will, those who express confidence in the Bible’s teaching that homosexuality is a sin will find themselves facing the same shock and censure from the very same quarters.
- Fred Sanders interviews Shaun Williams on teaching Augustine’s Confessions to middle schoolers.
The 14 year old is ripe for the picking in terms of Augustine’s discussions of sin, God, prayer, etc. The narrative and reflective style of the book is perfect for having Socratic and mind-blowing moments with 8th graders.
- Here’s an inspiring list of 10 Great Philanthropists Who Are Kids
- CNN has a fun list of 7 internet sins that could make you go viral with your friends.
- And, the Old Spice Guy is back.
Here’s Alan Hirsch explaining why he thinks that the church has to be both missional and incarnational.
Gerald Hiestand caused a bit of a stir yesterday with a post on what’s wrong with the church today (HT). Although I’m sure he would agree that there is more than one problem with the church today, his real concern is that “the theological agenda” of the church is being set by professional theologians rather than pastors. Although this won’t sound like a big deal to some people, it is. Keep reading.
Hiestand starts things off by explaining his concern:
As a pastor who cares deeply about theology, I’ve become convinced that the present bifurcation between theological scholarship and pastoral ministry accounts for much of the theological anemia facing the church today.
Specifically, he’s concerned about those who are serving as the “wider theologians” of the church today – that is, “those who are tasked with the theological care of large swaths of the Christian tradition, or even the whole of the tradition itself.” And, his concern is that although future generations entrusted that task to pastors (e.g. Athansius, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, etc.), more recent generations have handed that task on to professional (academic) theologians.
But since the nineteenth-century (in North America, at least) the center of theological reflection has shifted from the parish to the university. The pastoral community is no longer called upon—as a matter of vocation—to construct theology for those beyond their congregations. Instead, our present context views the academy as the proper home for those with theological gifts.
And, he identifies at least three problems with this development:
- The social location of academic theologians causes them to ask question more relevant to the academic guild than the local church.
- Churches become theologically shallow as those with theological gifts seek careers in the academy rather than the parish.
- Theology loses its roots in the church and becomes overly abstract and technical.
So, of course, he concludes with an appeal for more pastor-theologians:
The ecclesial renewal of Christian theology will not take place apart from a concerted effort to reestablish the pastoral community as the church’s most significant body of theologians. The pastoral community must once again become serious about the duties of the theological task—study, prayer, writing, and theological dialog. The pastoral community as a whole must once again don the mantle of theological responsibility for the wider church.
My initial response to Hiestand’s argument is to conclude that he is absolutely right. Why is it that our doctoral programs are currently producing far too many academic theologians than are necessary for the available academic positions, while at the same time many churches suffer from a dearth of quality theological formation? It seems entirely reasonable to conclude that it’s because we have separated the church from the theological task and concluded that it can only be adequately accomplished in an academic setting, far removed from the distractions of everyday ministry.
What a travesty. Quality theology arises from constant engagement in the life and ministry of the church, as many contemporary theologians know full well. And, the theological shallowness of many churches today absolutely requires a renewed commitment to theological depth in the pastorate. Indeed, often encourage ministry-minded students to consider a Th.M. for precisely this reason. (Did you catch my subtle sales pitch?) We absolutely must stop viewing this kind of preparation as relevant only for those headed into the academy.
Despite my initially positive reaction, though, I do have to offer a couple of additional thoughts.
- Things may not be as bad as he suggests. I think there is a growing movement among younger pastors toward exactly this kind of pastor-theologian. I’m constantly encouraged by the theological vitality of the next generation of pastors and I think it bodes well for the future of the church.
- We need to retain a place for the academic theologian. Hiestand actually agrees with this and addresses it at one point in the article, but I would have liked to see it highlighted more. Just as the professional pastor offers training and resources not available to the average Christian, so does the professional theologian. Let’s make sure that we don’t lose an important resource as we seek to swing the pendulum the other way.
- We shouldn’t fault those headed into the academy. As one of those who left professional ministry for the academy, I think I can speak for many who discover that it can be really difficult to find a place to express one’s gifts and interests. I agree with Brian Fulthorp who pointed out that many churches are so pragmatically-minded that there’s no room for someone interested in developing a theological ministry.
In the end, though, I am still in complete agreement. The church needs more pastor-theologians and more theological depth in the church. I’m encouraged by what I think is a strong trend in that direction, and I pray that it continues. If you are preparing to be a pastor-theologian, please continue and let the rest of us know how we can help. If you are involved in academics, please make it a key part of your mission to develop the next generation of pastor-theologians.
- According to a recent study, more people now link the Christian faith to being American.
Purdue University scholars found that between 1996 and 2004, Americans who saw Christian identity as a “very important” attribute of being American increased from 38 percent to 49 percent.
- Tim Stafford explains how people got invited to the Lausanne Conference.
The process started with a selection committee, chosen from the Lausanne network including one representative from each of 12 regions globally. That committee chose a selection director for each of 200 countries. According to Lindsay Brown, international director for Cape Town 2010, the committee looked for “Christian statesmen” who would be fair-minded in trying to represent the whole church in their country, not merely their friends or fellow church members. That chair gathered a selection committee, vested with the authority to choose delegates for their country.
- Religion News Service has an interview with John Dominic Crossan.
Any religion’s greatest prayers should be addressed to the whole world. If a prayer only speaks to you, that’s fine. But I would like to hear you speaking to all of us. The Lord’s Prayer is the greatest because it comes from the heart of Judaism and the lips of Christianity—but speaks to the conscience of the world.
- Brady Boyd offers a list of 10 things he wishes someone had told him when he started in ministry. HT
Sheep bites can’t kill me, but the gnawing will make life miserable a few days each year.
- And, a new study suggests that the world may not end on Dec 21, 2012 after all. That’s a relief.
- iMonk brings together an interesting group of Christian leaders to discuss pastoral care and visitation.
- Grateful to the Dead comments on a few universities that are doing historical theology well.
- P.ost engages an article from Pyromaniacs on engaging culture. The comments are culture and the Gospel are worth reading, but I particularly liked an opening comment on the difficulty of entering a blogging world very different from your own: “I don’t go there very often – it’s the other side of town, it’s unfamiliar territory, I sense that I don’t belong there, I don’t understand the language, and frankly I’m afraid of being mugged.”
- Roger Olson wants every just to admit that all theologies are flawed. I think we can push harder. I think everyone already admits this. The harder part is getting people to act like it.
- Kevin DeYoung points out an interesting panel discussion on the Bible involving Brian McLaren, Tim Keller, and Alistair McGrath.
- Ben Witherington discusses what sola scriptura really means.
- And, Mashable has a list of 11 astounding sci-fi predictions that came true.
- Kevin DeYoung offers a list of twenty things he wishes he knew when he started ministry.
- Roger Olson explains why he is a (historic) premillennialist.
- Tim Challies has a nice review of Rhonda Byrne’s The Power. Sadly, if you haven’t already, you’re probably going to start running into lots of people who have read or are talking about this one. Please make them stop.
- Peter Leithart explains why he doesn’t find the “functional” account of creation convincing (at least with respect to Sailhammer’s functional interpretation of Day 4).
- And, Matt Dabbs explains how Bonhoeffer got him to give up on creating community.
A church in Wake Forest has decided to build its logo around the acronym WTF (to them it means “worship, teaching, friends”). A picture of the church has recently received lots of attention on the web, with most people assuming that the church is clueless and has no idea what the acronym actually stands for. But, according to the church’s blog, they’re well aware of its usual meaning, but have used the acronym as part of an intentional strategy to market the church to college students. (Don’t you love it when we use the words “market” and “church” in the same sentence?) So, the church is pretty excited about all the attention that they’ve received from this photo.